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Our Team: The Epic Story of Four Men and the World Series That Changed Baseball

Review

Our Team: The Epic Story of Four Men and the World Series That Changed Baseball

Four men, inextricably linked. Two white, two Black. Bob Feller, Satchel Paige, Bill Veeck and Larry Doby. All of them could be said to be pioneers, and each had his own triumphs and disappointments.

Bob Feller, signed by the Cleveland Indians, was a “phee-nom,” as they used to say. This teenage farm boy from the heartland of America (Van Meter, Iowa) had a fastball that made grown men beg out of the lineup. Realizing his value --- as well as the short lifespan of an athlete, especially having lost some prime years to World War II --- he was the first to incorporate himself. He sought endorsement opportunities and produced barnstorming trips, gathering a collection of major leaguers who would travel around the country after the end of the season, giving many fans the only opportunity to see them in person. Feller’s troupe would take on local teams, but the real story was their engagements with players from the Negro Leagues in the years before Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in 1947.

"Ably researched and entertainingly presented by Luke Epplin, OUR TEAM is a painstaking look at the difficulties in the lives of all these men..."

It was on these trips that Feller would encourage mano-a-mano duels with Satchel Paige, a beanpole of a pitcher whose speed rivaled Feller’s (Paige also had exceptional control, which Feller did not). These games often showed that players from the Negro Leagues were just as good, if not often better, than their big league counterparts, with Paige up front and center in all of this.

Bill Veeck was the P.T. Barnum of baseball. The game was in his blood. His father had been an executive with the Chicago Cubs, and as soon as he was able, he bought himself a team, which turned out to be the Indians after a couple of false starts elsewhere.

Veeck was a maverick, bucking tradition with his plans to bring people out to the ballpark, but with the ultimate goal of winning a pennant. That included looking for talent where no one else would (except for the Brooklyn Dodgers’ Branch Rickey, who signed Robinson to a professional contract in 1946). He made Larry Doby, who had been a star with the Newark Eagles in the Negro Leagues, the second African American in the Majors.

Despite their renown, Paige and Doby had to deal with the discrimination of their time, the Jim Crow laws of the Deep South, and the attitudes of white teammates, media and fans who perceived Black players as somehow deficient in what it took to be in the Majors. Doby, more than a decade younger than Paige, was more introspective and introverted, while the older man had developed a thicker skin and knew how to “go along to get along.” Like Feller, he was always on the lookout for a bigger paycheck, willing to break contracts and jump from team to team for that larger payday.

Ably researched and entertainingly presented by Luke Epplin, OUR TEAM is a painstaking look at the difficulties in the lives of all these men --- Feller’s “lost years,” Veeck’s leg amputation following his own military service, and Paige and Doby trying to make inroads in a sport that did not want “their kind.” But as they worked together for a common goal, many of these differences were set aside.

Reviewed by Ron Kaplan on April 2, 2021

Our Team: The Epic Story of Four Men and the World Series That Changed Baseball
by Luke Epplin

  • Publication Date: March 30, 2021
  • Genres: History, Nonfiction, Sports
  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Flatiron Books
  • ISBN-10: 1250313791
  • ISBN-13: 9781250313799